Scent of a Firefighter
Louis Arena loved being a firefighter, and one of the ways he showed it was this: He would return to his Staten Island home from Ladder Company 5 and tell his wife, Wanda, "Smell my head."
Mrs. Arena, 31, was crazy about the way her husband smelled, especially after a fire. She would rub his hair and breathe the smell of smoke and sweat from his pores.
The two had been friends since grade school, and married for the last six years, yet this was one of the rare times she had her husband to herself. "I used to be so jealous" of the other firefighters, she said. "I'd tease him, 'You love them more than me.'"
The couple had two children, Nina, 4, and Joseph, 3. They dreamed of retiring to Key West, sleeping on the beach and listening to Jimmy Buffett. Over the summer, she bought him tickets to a Jimmy Buffett concert in November.
Now Mrs. Arena is left with the unused tickets, and with the shirt he wore their last day together, on a trip to a Long Island beach. She has not washed the shirt, she said. She lost her husband, who was 32, but she cannot part with the last traces of his scent.
Profile published in THE NEW YORK TIMES on December 13, 2001.
LOUIS ARENA, 32, of New York, a firefighter with the New York fire department, died trying to help others. "It's so typical of him. He was always helping people," said his wife, Wanda. "He was not concerned about himself." It was a trait he developed early. His sister, JoAnn Arena-Eisinger, recalled telling her then-3-year-old brother that she was hungry one day. "He walked down to the (store), got a loaf of bread and walked out with it," she said. He brought it home to her. "You said you needed something, you got it," Arena-Eisinger said.
Copyright © 2001 The Associated Press